Klarna Brings in Brian Billingsley to March on United States Mobile Markets

December 2, 2014         By: Steven Anderson

Klarna’s plan to take on the United States’ mobile payment market—already flush with competitors ranging from Apple Pay to PayPal and well beyond—isn’t exactly a secret; news of it emerged back in August.

But following the release of its open development platform back in October, Klarna has made another move geared toward getting a better foothold in the United States markets by bringing in Brian Billingsley to serve as CEO of its U.S. operations.

Though Billingsley has already had some substantial success with payment operations in the past—he’s been a part of both eCom Advisors and FIS—Klarna wasn’t going to send Billingsley in cold.

First, Klarna brought Billingsley to Stockholm, where he would spend the following four months learning both Klarna’s corporate culture and its normal business operations. This in turn gave Billingsley an understanding that, as he related in subsequent remarks, Klarna had a particular focus on the merchant, and in turn, would offer up a merchant-friendly payment system that should be well-received by its target market.

Klarna also brought in an array of other executives from competitors like PayPal and Apple to help augment its executive body, so that should give Klarna a lot of top-end firepower to help lead its push into United States market.

The demand for such services should be pretty substantial. A recent study from the Harvard Business Review noted that between 70 and 74 percent of users were well-acquainted with the practice of using smartphones in the store as a means to compare prices, part of a practice sometimes called “showrooming,” in which users get hands-on with a product in store, but turn to online sources to pull the trigger on the purchase itself.

This means significant problems for brick-and-mortar stores, unless such stores can improve the overall practice of buying in the store, a development that Klarna wants to be a big part of. With Klarna, merchants can offer one-touch purchasing options much like Amazon does, a development that will hopefully have more potential buyers turning to the store instead of online alternatives. Klarna’s biggest draw for merchants is to offer a sharp reduction in abandoned orders, providing as much as a 30 percent boost in conversions for desktop shoppers and a 70 to 80 percent boost for mobile users.

While it remains to be seen if Klarna can keep that kind of momentum going for its push into the United States, it’s a prospect that’s likely got merchants sitting up and taking notice. Online sales have been a thorn in the side of the brick-and-mortar market ever since online selling became truly credible somewhere around 10 years ago or so, and the problem’s only gotten worse since.

When eBay launched that promotional special with Bliss Spa back in 2012, allowing users to come in and get a pampering spa day on Black Friday instead of going out and throwing elbows for the cheap televisions, it was a real jump-the-shark moment for brick-and-mortar.

Brick-and-mortar, in turn, had to struggle to turn the tide, and it’s moves like this that will go a long way toward helping. Of course, these aren’t the only moves to make—mobile can often beat brick-and-mortar on pricing thanks to lower overhead, and consumers are certainly price-conscious—but it’s also certainly a good start.

Only time will tell just what kind of impact Klarna can have, with its new development tools and its new executive flourish, but it’s looking to set itself up to make a splash.

Check back later for our Exclusive Q&A with Klarna’s Brian Billingsley.